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Defiance of Khamenei continues

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Iran's supreme leader warned government opponents Monday to end a campaign of civil disobedience while defiant reformists proposed a nationwide referendum to resolve the ongoing dispute over the country's recent presidential election.

The moves show that neither supporters of opposition figure Mir Hossein Mousavi nor the camp backing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is backing down five weeks after an election marred by claims of vote fraud.

The call for a referendum is the latest in a series of direct challenges against the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose demand weeks ago that Iranians accept Ahmadinejad as president for a second term has gone unheeded.

In pointed comments aimed at the reformist camp, Khamenei warned the country's political class that "any words they utter, any action they take, any analysis they express" could help the nation's international rivals.

It was Khamenei's first public comments since a prayer sermon Friday by Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a Mousavi backer, whose words of support for reformist demands energized the opposition. Khamenei, describing the unrest as a foreign plot, appears to be trying to silence the opposition by vowing to crack down on dissidents and by rejecting the view that the country is in a state of political crisis.

But the wounds show no signs of healing, and opposition figures show no sign of relenting. The rift within the establishment was highlighted again Monday by the absence of Rafsanjani, chairman of two powerful government boards, and reformist clergy from an annual Muslim holiday gathering in the capital, according to television footage.

Meanwhile, in a meeting with families of those imprisoned in the government's post-election crackdown on protesters, Mousavi said that "intimidation and threats cannot silence" his supporters, according to his Web site.

New street protests are expected today in downtown Tehran and other cities in support of Mousavi on the anniversary of the day in 1952 when soldiers refused to fire on demonstrators supporting Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, a nationalist hero who was removed in a CIA-backed coup.

The Assembly of Combatant Clergy, the reformist political party of former President Mohammad Khatami, issued a declaration Monday calling for the disputed vote results to be put to a referendum.

"Such a referendum would be the only way out of the current spiraling crisis and deadlock, and insistence on ineffective options would further damage public trust," it said.

Khatami, who remains popular but wields little power within the Islamic establishment, suggested that the Expediency Council oversee the election. The government body is led by Rafsanjani.

Revolutionary Guard: The elite branch of Iran's military sought to consolidate its power by moving to take control of the oil industry and to extend its influence in higher education. The guard proposed that the military's view equating dissent with foreign conspiracy be injected into higher education, according to Sepah News, its official Web site.

Defiance of Khamenei continues 07/20/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 20, 2009 10:57pm]
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